A Playbook to kickstart your #GivingTuesday Campaign

Nonprofits across the country have pledged to participate in #GivingTuesday on Dec. 3 – but signing up to participate in the online giving campaign is just the first step.

Being truly successful on #GivingTuesday takes proper planning, outreach, logistics and follow up. Luckily, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

Knight Foundation created an easy-to-use resource called the Giving Day Playbook full of ideas we hope you’ll borrow. It was written for the many community foundations around the country that have launched Giving Days, or geographically-based online fundraising campaigns.

Organized into sections on planningoutreachday of logistics and follow-up, the Playbook is full of tips, checklists, templates and examples of past campaigns that can be easily adapted for #GivingTuesday. RELATED LINKS

Recorded webinar: “Getting the Most from #GivingTuesday: Ideas and Tools for Nonprofits to Drive Giving” via the Stanford Social Innovation Review

Drawing from the Playbook, here are four practical tips to help you maximize your campaign:

1. Set Clear and Measurable Goals

To get the most out of #GivingTuesday, you’ll want to think carefully about what you want to achieve and the targets you aim for. Setting specific goals will help motivate your team and give a real focus to all your efforts.

The Giving Day Playbook offers some specific examples and templates for setting measureable goals for your participation. The Playbook can aid with planning for the financial side by helping to set goals based on benchmarks developed by similarly sized nonprofits. If it’s your organization’s first time participating, the Playbook has the results of past campaigns to give you a sense of the financial goal you might aim for.

Also, remember that goals can go beyond dollars and cents. Your organization can also set targets for donor engagement and brand awareness. When goal setting, keep in mind your target donor segment. Everything you do with your communication and outreach flows from the segment (s) you choose.

For example, the Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation specifically targeted donations from young professions in their past Giving Day campaign. Using this target, they tailored their messaging to a younger audience, put on specific events and happy hour get-togethers. In the end, they raised over $15,000 from nearly 50 new donors. This was a great first step for engaging a new base of support and exceeded their goals.

2. Incentivize Donor Participation

Prize and match incentives can help build excitement and be used to encourage particular actions by donors. Some of the research on giving shows that matching prizes can increase the probability of giving by up to 40% and matching is particularly effective for short-term campaigns like #GivingTuesday.

There are a whole range of options for structuring matching incentives you can choose from. The Giving Day Playbook includes a matching incentives options table that explains different prizes, their pros and cons and the fundraising goals they align with.

Whatever option you choose, be sure to follow these golden rules: a) Clearly communicate to donors the criteria for prize and match incentives, and b) Don’t offer too many choices as it can get confusing very quickly for donors.

3. Engage Online and Excite Offline

Organizations are most effective in participating in Giving Days when they engage online and excite people offline with events and activities. Before the actual Giving Day, social media can help build a steady stream of support, remind people of what’s coming and how it ties to your work. The day of the event, online presence can be used to share progress updates, photos and personally thank donors. The Giving Day Playbook has handy templates in the outreach section including blog posts, a social media calendar, sample tweets and marketing materials.

In tandem with your online presence, in-person events can be an effective way to build excitement for your Giving Day. The in-person events also entice media coverage of your activities.

GiveMN, for example, hosted a variety of events throughout their community including kickoff breakfasts, school rallies and happy hours.  They also hosted a local event at the Mall of the Americas where school principals rode a roller coaster for a certain amount of time based on the donations received. This gave the media a great visual to promote their campaign and was pretty good entertainment for everyone around!

The key lessons learned here are: create concrete visuals for media to cover participation in #GivingTuesday and make it easy for them to connect a national movement to a local story.

4. Follow-up, Follow-up, Follow-up

With all the hard work leading up to #GivingTuesday and the excitement and rush of the day itself, it’s easy to think that your work is done when it’s over.  Certainly, you should celebrate and feel proud of what you’ve accomplished. But you’re not done yet!

Directly following a Giving Day is a critical time to capitalize on some of the new relationships you’ve created and re-energize your team to extend the value beyond a single day.

This is where follow-up is essential and can help enhance the accomplishments from your Giving Day.  When it comes to follow-up, we recommend three things based on past experience in the field:

  • Be grateful: spend time thanking donors and partners; the playbook has sample letters and tweets for your use.
  • Be transparent: everyone who was involved in some way or heard about the event will want to know how you did – particularly your most engaged supporters.
  • Be Smart: We recommend that you survey donors that contributed to your organization to find out what their experience was like, to learn their demographic information and how you might invite them to become more engaged in your organization in the future.

When it comes to follow up, the Miami Foundation is a good example of what’s possible when you follow-up. After their Giving Day campaign, they created a survey for all donors to learn more about their interests and compared that data to their existing donors. This gave them great information to help support future campaigns. We adapted their survey to create a donor survey and nonprofit survey template.

Giving Days are a relatively new area of fundraising. There is a lot to learn, but we hope these lessons will help your organization build capacity in online fundraising, reach out to new donors and to expand your profile. You can access the complete Giving Day Playbook at

Best of luck in your campaign!

By Mayur Patel, vice president of Strategy and Assessment at Knight Foundation, and Anna Dilernia, Strategy and Assessment assistant at Knight Foundation